In California, the battle over Proposition 37, which would require the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food products, is heating up. In late July, pro-labeling groups obtained a flier sent out by a group opposed to the proposition containing the endorsements of three Democratic California Assemblymembers, even though the Democratic Party of California (and over 90 percent of consumers) supports GMO labeling.
The group that ran the flier is "No on 37: Coalition Against the Deceptive Food Labeling Scheme, Sponsored by Farmers and Food Producers," formerly known as "Coalition Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition." "No on 37" receives major funding from the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI) and Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), both front groups for the "Big 6" pesticide and genetic engineering companies: Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Syngenta, Bayer, Dupont, and BASF. The flier proudly bears the endorsements of Assemblymembers Henry Perea, Manuel Perez, and Alexandra Rooker, the Vice-Chair of the California Democratic Party. This despite the California Democratic Party announcing its endorsement for Prop 37 on Monday.
A search of Monsanto's website reveals that the corporation contributed $1,500 to Assemblymember Perea's reelection fund in April of this year. Perea is running unopposed. The contribution was discovered by Label GMOs Hollywood, an activist group that supports the labeling measure.
Big 6 Spend Big in California
The "Big 6" front groups CBI and GMA, as well as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Cargill, Conagra, and other big food corporations, have collectively donated more than a million dollars to efforts to oppose the California GMO labeling proposition. As CMD guest contributor Michele Simon reported, fighting GMO labeling is the food lobby's "highest priority." Talk about "special interests."
The largest contributions to "No on 37" came from several of the "Big 6": Pioneer Hi Bred, a subsidiary of Dupont, gave $310,000; BASF Plant Science gave $126,000; Syngenta gave $63,300; their Washington-based lobbying powerhouse Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) gave $250,000 (BIO is funded by a long list of agrichemical companies including Monsanto); and GMA gave $125,000.
Responding to the release of these numbers by the California Secretary of State on Tuesday, Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD, senior scientist at PANNA, said, "Much of the rest of the world -- including Japan, Australia, the European Union and China -- already requires genetically engineered foods to be clearly labeled. But in the U.S., pesticide corporations like Monsanto continue to enjoy unfettered and unlabeled access to the market, and a consumer population that is left largely in the dark."
Stacy Malkan, a spokeswoman for the "Yes on 37 Right to Know Campaign," asked, "Why are these giant food companies spending so much money to hide the truth about what's in our food? These same companies are already informing foreign consumers about genetically engineered food in 49 other countries... Californians have a right to know what's in our food, too."
Over 90 percent of Americans believe they have a "right to know" and support the labeling of GMO foods. In the face of that kind of broad-based popular support, the "Big 6" and their front groups may have their work cut out for them, even if a handful of assemblymembers do team up with Monsanto and endorse the opposition.
For more on the "Big 6" lobbying agenda, see CMD guest contributor Jill Richardson's article on "Monsanto's quiet coup".